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Blue Moon Crew

Concerning the doings of Blue Moon Studios and the Fricke Family: The Blue Moon Crew

100 Posts and Counting....



I began this blog with the site relaunch in mid-December, 2007, with the intention and hope of blogging nearly every day. To tell the truth, I wasn't sure how I'd do. With work and family and side creative projects, there was no guarantee I'd be able to find the time, rather that this blog would go the way of so many...into stagnancy and obscurity. Well, I can't speak to obscurity, but other than taking some days off here and there, in just over three months, the Blue Moon Blog has already reached its 100th post. This blog has evolved and grown over that time, but has become pretty much what I'd envisioned when I wrote the first post. The blog is designed to be an integral part of the larger Blue Moon Studios site, a way for me to keep it fresh and alive, and a reason for you to visit habitually. I've covered new projects, sketches and illustrations from the archive, my various and eclectic popular culture interests and obsessions, tips for creating art and running a home business, and, of course, the latest goings on with the Blue Moon Crew, all of which are easily accessible by category links in the always-present sidebar to the left, so browse away. I've a couple dozen new posts already in the works, so check in, to appropriate an old Chicagoism, "early and often." And drop a quick comment if and when you're able, so I know you're out there. Thanks much to all of you who've been visiting daily and commenting, and welcome to you newcomers. We'll see you again tomorrow.


Batter Up!


I've returned to the blog a day early to ring in the opening of the new baseball season. A few teams played last night, including the Washington Nationals, who won with a walk-off homer in their new stadium . Though I rooted for the Cincinnati Reds while growing up in Chicago, I was still a Cubs and Sox fan. And now transplanted in Minnesota, I can't shake that Cubbie Blue; it seems to be in my blood. The Cubs debut this afternoon if the game isn't rained out (looks bleak). If they play, though I'm working like crazy, I get to watch while I draw, one of the perks of working from the home studio!


Time Out


We interrupt this blog, because we need a break and have much too much going on. We'll resume regularly scheduled blog programming on April 1, and just in time to celebrate our 100th post. See you on the 1st, fools!


Warming Up for Opening Day

Up here in Minnesota, the temperatures are finally starting to rise, the snow is melting and the last week or two my daughter Emily has been asking, "Daddy, do you wish it was Spring?" Yes, I do. Almost here, but it can take its time, as we may not have regular 70+ degree temps for another six-to-eight weeks. So, to help get through this last push, my thoughts turn to baseball. Despite the steroids and scandals and high ticket prices, I feel like a little kid again as each April approaches and spring training begins, and long for the official first pitch, that first crack of the bat. Over the years around this time, I've been reading a baseball book to get in the mood and whet the appetite. If you like baseball at all, you may want to dip into one of these best I've found before the ump says "Play Ball!"


Wrigleyworld - Sports columnist Kevin Kudak quit his job to move back to Chicago to live in Wrigleyville, with an intent to attend as many Cubs games as he could during the 2005 season. He found an apartment in the area to share, and bought no tickets in advance, usually snagging scalped tickets just before the game. Filled with fun and funny anecdotes, chronicling his adventures and those of fellow Cubs enthusiasts who make up the obsessed and crazy culture that's grown in and around Wrigley Field. A quick read, this one's a must for Cubs and baseball fans. If I Never Get Back - Out of print for some time, this charming genre melange is now available in paperback. Mixing time travel, romance, baseball and historical fiction in an utterly entertaining fantasy in which the protagonist finds himself playing on the first official baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and gallivanting with the likes of Mark Twain. I've just discovered author Daryl Brock followed up in 2002 with a sequel, Two in the Field, which I've not yet read (next year!). Ball Four: The Final Pitch - Pitcher Jim Bouton chronicles his last days in baseball with this humorous tell-all. Written in the form of a journal or diary, Bouton exposes behind the scenes dugout and locker room anecdotes with no holds barred and self deprecation. Quick, light reading. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game - Micheal Lewis explores how Billy Beane, general manager of the A's and a former player figures how to win in the Major Leagues on a small budget. Starting with using mathematical analysis of the game concocted by Bill James and his annual stats newsletter, Baseball Abstract, the book is a fascinating look at creative and imaginative ways a GM can run a small market team. This year, I'm reading We Are the Ship and The Boy Who Saved Baseball, and both look great so far. The former is a beautifully illustrated overview of the Negro League, the latter a novel actually for ages 9-12, but if the beginning is any indication, there's plenty for adult baseball fans to chew on. Of course, if reading isn't your cuppa, there are many great baseball movies to take in, my favorites being Field of Dreams, The Natural, Bull Durham, Pride of the Yankees, Damn Yankees, Eight Men Out, A League of Their Own, and the lesser known TV movie, Long Gone, starring CSI's William Peterson, along with team owner Henry Gibson, and his son, played by Teller (he speaks); a perfect casting match. Also worth while are Ken Burns' documentary on baseball (particularly the first few episodes, before it becomes too New York-centric) and This Old Cub, the recent documentary about former Cub and present-day radio sportscaster, Ron Santo, which covers his efforts to be voted into the Hall of Fame and his struggles with diabetes. Great stuff, written and directed by his son, Jeff Santo. Grab one of these that sounds up your alley, 'cause it's almost time ball!


Six More Weeks....


The most difficult part of getting through a Minnesota Winter is March. Most folks like the variety or don't mind the snow and cold, but after an already long Winter, everyone just wants it to be over. We all haven't seen much of the neighbors in months, and many (especially those of us who work at home) have a bit of Cabin Fever. March gives a hint of sun and warming, but the temps still drop, the snow still falls. Spring is so close, one can taste it, but...not yet! Minnesota Spring is such a tease. The upside is that when Spring does come here Up North, it bursts forth in an instant, and there's no doubt Spring has arrived. Almost there...!

I should've posted this Woodchuck Weatherman on Groundhog's Day, and I've always liked him. Another illustration from when I was using crosshatch more, there's a nice tonal shift into the shadow and a hairy texture which is pretty effective. I tried to vary the textures from that crosshatch, with a different look for the ground, and the more bold and graphic spots on his tie. Though this works in black and white, it might be fun to color.


Odds 'n Ends

A Comment on Comments Readership to this fairly new blog is steadily growing, and some splendid souls have contributed comments. Thanks! Keep them coming, as I try my best to respond. Towards that end, a reader (Hey, Tom!) has pointed out it'd be nice to be able to know if and when I've responded. So, now you can subscribe to comments on this blog, and you'll be alerted via email when I respond to your comments. Just click on "comments" on the bottom of a post, then check the box below the send button on that page, and we'll be able to engage in a little more back-and-forth. Beyond that, in the future we may add a link on the sidebar to the left for a Recent Comments page, so you can click and see at glance what everybody's saying. Good idea? Let us know. Superman vs. Hollywood Book Cover Update Just read a initially skeptical and ultimately positive review of the book, Superman vs. Hollywood for which I provided the cover. The review links to our blog post about the release of the book. Check it out. Further Update: I just received an email from the writer of the book, Jake Rossen, who's provided a link to a web site he's put up to keep tabs on all reviews and info. Read more at


Rats! Part Two: Poppy and Jazz


Say hello to our new rats, Jasmine and Poppy!



Once Laura decided it was time for new pets, and we'd all settled on rats again, she did even more research to help with her choices in regards to color and type. She opted for one solid Russian Silver (Jasmine), and the other a Champagne color (Poppy). Rats do better if they have company, and we don't want to get into the rat breeding business (well, maybe Laura does, but....), so these two are female.


Laura had both names picked out in advance being Poppy and Jazz, and I suggested Jasmine for the latter, so with both rats we have a few options and nicknames. Whether suggesting flowers or musical genre, the names still seemed to fit when we got them home, especially as Poppy started hopping and popping over Jasmine and all over the cage. It's quite a sight! Poppy's a dumbo rat, and Jasmine is probably a fancy dumbo, both about 4-6 weeks old, on the tiny side...for now. And, yes, Poppy has red eyes.


For Patches' last few weeks of life, Laura and I had augmented and expanded his cage to be three levels (and a loft) adding flooring, a running wheel, ladders, a hammock and other toys and activities. All the work was worth it as Patches last days were spent in style, and Poppy and Jazz have plenty of room for fun and exercise. Of course, before they entered their new home, Laura had given a thorough bleaching and cleaning.


When we started down this rat path, we felt different and weird in the area of pets, but with the success and popularity of the Pixar movie, Ratatouille, pet rats are more common now, enjoying something of a Rat Boom (Boom Town Rats?), and we don't feel quite so peculiar. With all the new research Laura's done, and with a few years experience, she's learned even more about care and diet of rats, so these two new additions to the Blue Moon Crew should have a healthy and happy little life.


Rats! Part One: Patches

Not being a true-blue animal lover, I like other people's pets. For years, it had been easy to avoid all that comes with pet ownership. But that changed since it became clear my two daughters are Animal Girls. We've had to discuss and compromise as a family to figure something that would work for everybody. First it was a gecko lizard, then fish, but Laura still wanted something cute and cuddly. I'm not a cat fan, and we don't want to care for a dog, so we settled on the next obvious choice: a rat. We had the opportunity to do a beta test with different animals Laura brought home from school that we'd watch over the weekend. I found guinea pigs weird and smelly, rabbits the same, and had bad experiences with gerbils and hamsters when I was younger. But when Laura brought home a white albino rat with red eyes named Icebreaker, we were surprised how easy and clean rats were. Icebreaker visited us 3-4 weekends, and it became clear to us a pet rat was in our future.


Patches joined us in the Summer of 2005. The girls had him cuddling, rolling inside a ball all around the house, and Laura trained him to go from the living room all the way upstairs to her room and his cage. He was dressed as a CowRat, walked around the neighborhood for Halloween as Ratula (Laura was a cat that year), and Mary made for him his own Santa hat, which he wore in his most famous appearance on our Christmas card that year. He really became a part of the family, even though Mary and I were still sometimes creeped out by his long tail, which would get us thinking "sewer."




Laura and Emily had grown quite attached to Patches, and kids in the neighborhood loved him, too. One day Emily and her friend Ashley came running in the house telling me Patches was lost. We ran out to the woods and found Laura standing there bawling in the middle of the woods behind our house. He'd apparently crawled out her pocket. I figured he was gone for good. Somehow, I calmed her down and all the noisy commotion that everyone was making in desperate and frantic searches for poor Patches. And in the quiet Laura heard him sneeze. She found him tucked in a crevice under a tiny hill. Needless to say, whenever she took him outside again, she made sure it was under strict and controlled circumstances.


Early last Fall, Patches caught an infection out of nowhere, was knocked on his side wheezing and looked to be checking out. He was over two years old, so that's about right for a rat, but they can live as long as 3 1/2 years in some cases (longer, like 5-7, but that's an extreme exception). With the girls just having left for their second day of the new school year, Mary took Patches to the doctor, and I didn't think he was going to make it before they returned from school. But with tender loving care, Laura and Mary nursed him back to health. He had antibiotics, whatever food and water he would take from an eyedropper. That first night when he was sick, I fashioned for him a Tinker Toy steam tent, and neighborhood kids visited him for a rat vigil. The next day, Laura came home from school to find he had just stopped breathing, but somehow Mary massaged him back, and he was over the hurdle.


The same infection returned about a month later, and Patches was too weak to hold it off again and died. That night we held a funeral in the backyard. Patches was obviously loved as his service was well-attended. About ten kids and five adults were there to see him off. Mary fashioned for him a little gold pillow, and we nestled his little rat body in a customized wooden, decorated casket (rat-sket) built by some boys down the block, in a very thoughtful gesture. We closed it up, and all the kids said a few words remembering Patches, each tossing a shovelful of dirt to help bury him. Laura was really torn up during and after for some time. It hit her really hard, and she took what time she needed to grieve. Several months later now, she's decided it's time to fill the hole in her heart.

Next: Meet the New Rats, not the same as the Old Rat.


KeyLime Cove Mini-vacation

The Blue Moon Crew bugged out of town last week to Chicagoland to visit family and friends, and for a day or two at the new KeyLime Cove resort and water park. I set up in advance many days of illustration blogging, so many may not have known or noticed our family had vacated temporarily the home and studio. We were elsewhere, taking a break from work and chores and school, and boy, did the girls complain about that! Having helped develop a handful of characters for restaurants within the complex, we were pleased as punch to be invited by Dave Anderson (of Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants) and his wife Kathy for food, drink, activities and a splish-splashingly good time at the water park and resort. Along with Dave's family and other visitors and families, we stayed a couple nights during a pre-opening simulation period. The water park was open a few hours a couple times a day, and we were able to eat at a few of the restaurants while menus were fine-tuned. The rooms were beautiful and comfy, complete with a soap dish in the bathroom; it's the details that count!



The water park itself is mid-sized by industry standards, but plenty nice and roomy, offering a wave pool, lazy river, hot tub and several water slides, for tube or body rides. There's a large play area with a huge pineapple atop which dumps a bunch of water on those below every few minutes. We took a few photos from the top of the stairs to the water slides, where you can get a great view of the entire park. There are no clocks inside, so one can get lost for hours in the water park, but that pineapple dumps water like clockwork, dependable as Old Faithful, giving one a sense of time in the Lost Paradise.


The Vortex seemed to be a big hit with everyone. Here's a shot of me and Emily spinning around like the Tidy Bowl Man!


All the lifeguards were attentive and in fine spirits. One in particular was quite the comedian, asking Mary and I "Have you found your" Laura and Emily loved playing in the Wave Pool, and it was nice for Dad to relax with a few trips around the Lazy River after climbing all those stairs to the water slides so many times.


I'd mentioned previously on this blog the character and logo I had a hand in developing for Sharky's Big Bites. Unlike the other eateries and restaurants elsewhere in the resort, Sharky's is located within the water park itself. It was fun to see the 3-D sign that was made based on my Sharky art.


Besides Sharky, I helped develop "Scoops" the Penguin and a pizza man for D.W. Anderson's Eatery and Ice Cream Parlor and Hot Diggety Dawg. Learn more at the KeyLime Cove site, or read this informative article, which explains more about the concept behind the resort. If you're in the area and looking for a fun place to unwind, consider a visit!


Sick & Tired


I've been having trouble sleeping the last few days, which opened the door to another cold which has settled in my chest. Fun! This exquisite feeling reminded of these two pieces I did long ago, back when I had even more trouble with sleep. I was experimenting again with the Hunt crow quill a lot back then, and with weird textures. For both of these pieces I dipped my digits in ink for fingerprint effects I thought helped get the point across, either for a wrinkles on a weary and weathered face, or twinkly spots before tired eyes.